Day Nine: Optimism

 

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Photo taken from the window of my flight back to Louisville. The bridges over the Ohio River between Indiana and Louisville.

I flew back home from Phoenix last night, with a connecting flight at O’Hare in Chicago.

It seems I had the usual O’Hare experience everyone complains about.

  1. The plane from Phoenix was late.
  2. I had 15 minutes to go the one mile to my next gate to catch the connecting flight to Louisville.
  3. I ran like hell to get there.
  4. I didn’t really need to run, after all. The Louisville flight was delayed anyway.

I’ve spent most of today finishing my blog posts from notes made during my Phoenix trip. I wanted to experience my trip, rather than spend the whole trip blogging.

Daily Meditation

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Cameo appearance with The Earps at Chopper John’s in Phoenix. January 6, 2017.

Clearing blue sky,
A promise in bare branches.
In winter, there are sunny days.
In adulthood, childhood can return.
-Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations

Key points:

  • There is optimism in doing things in disagreeable weather to prepare for when the weather gets better.
  • Adults often see these responsibilities as obligations.
  • The gratification comes when these efforts bear fruits that can be enjoyed.

Self Mastery work this week:

After returning from vacation, I will now resume Week One of “Self Mastery: Personal Empowerment for Creating the Life You Desire” by Dr. Marcus Chacos.

Goal: Seven straight days of waking up at 5:00AM for breakfast, meditation, and blogging.

 

Working with The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday:

“Some things are in our control, while others are not.” – Epictetus, The Enchiridion

As I mentioned on Day One, I was taken by the sheriff’s department to a Crisis Stabilization Unit in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where I was absolutely crazy, freaking out, having all kinds of bizarre delusions, which eventually led to being sent to Hardin County Memorial Hospital for 72 hours, and later to the psych ward at Central State Hospital in Louisville.

While I was in the Crisis Stabilization Unit, we had a group exercise, asking the basic question while going through our the problems of our lives: What is in your control and what is not? Mind you, we all lived with some degree of dysfunction, substance abuse, any other problems which made us no longer functional adults.

Although the counselors base this work on The Serenity Prayer, made famous by 12 step programs, its roots are in Stoicism.

Epictetus says we control:

  • Our opinion
  • Choice
  • Desire
  • Aversion
  • Everything of our own doing

Epictetus says we don’t control:

  • Body
  • Property
  • Reputation
  • Position
  • Everything not of our own doing.

Lose your job?- You can’t control the loss of your job. You can control the choice to search for a new job.

Lose everything you own?- You can’t control your property. It can all be lost at any time, whether you like it or not. You can control your attachments and desire for ownership, and make a choice to take the steps to replace the things you once owned.

Someone close to you died and you are devastated?- It is okay to have emotions about the situation, but you cannot control your own body or someone else’s. You can’t control your own death.

Sounds too simple?

“What about when innocent victims such as children are beaten and murdered?” you might ask, for example.

Again, you could have only controlled that situation if you were present to save the child’s life, or least make the attempt. It doesn’t mean you can’t get angry about it happening, or help in some way to get justice.

The idea is very black and white, but it’s a good place to start working when you are suffering from a crisis. It doesn’t mean you will instantly get over everything in one moment after reading some Epictetus.

You only have so much control over the health of your body (You do have some control.) You don’t have control over thieves taking your property and getting away with it. You only have so much control over keeping your job. You have no control over what other people think of you. In fact, Epictetus might even argue that another person’s opinion of you isn’t your business- it’s their business!

Vacation over.

Tomorrow, I go back to work. Special thanks to Brian & Jan Sandwich, Frank & Sharon Labor, The Earps, and everyone who came out to Chopper John’s to visit me during the trip.

Peace.

B.G.

Day Three: Devotion

Tomorrow, I will be flying to Phoenix, Arizona. While I am there, I plan to post pictures from the trip and blog about experiences. I will conduct audio interviews with my current girlfriend, who is a somewhat successful rock drummer, and Kevin “HotWheels” McGregor, my former bandmate in The Earps. 

“Our  bodies, our hearts, and our spirits must be totally concentrated upon what we want.”

-Chapter 3, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao

I have succeeded for two consecutive days at waking up before 5AM. When you have many small bad habits and addictions, the general (almost cliched) advice is you can’t conquer them at all at once. 

My morning routine, sadly, going back to high school (and maybe even further back) is:

  1. Alarm goes off.
  2. Push “Snooze” button several times.
  3. Say “Oh shit!!!”
  4. Rush to get ready and go off to work, racing the clock to get there on time. 

My mother has also struggled with this her entire adult life too,  even now into her 60s. 

This morning:

4:30 AM: Woke up.

4:30AM-4:40AM: Showered. 

4:45AM-5:00AM: Folded laundry and put away. Wet clothes from last night into dryer. 

5:00AM-5:15: Coffee. Marlboro Black Menthol cigarette. 

5:15AM- present moment: Composing this blog post.

Moving on to morning readings and hopefully, 10 minutes of meditation. 

To be fully transparent, I am working on “Week One: Lesson One” from  Self Mastery: Personal Empowerment for Creating the Life You Desire by Dr. Marcus Chacos. 

First week’s challenge is to wake up earlier than normal, master that one, and add a challenge the following week. 

“Life changes require behavioural change. Behavioural change requires moving out of your comfort zone. This is the first step towards self-mastery. The best way to change your habits is do something differently.”
-Dr. Marcus Chacos

The history of my romantic life can be easily summed up in two words: 

“Jerry! Jerry!”

One of my own personal addictions is desire to get payback and “tell that son of a bitch!” 

Yesterday, my former brother in law, seeing my new girlfriend on Facebook, dropped a private message telling me how pretty my new girl is, and how we are a better fit than I was with his sister. 

I had no idea what he was really trying to say. 

I should have said “Thanks.”

Instead I told him that only a woman who doesn’t lie to me, sneak around behind my back, have drunken meltdowns in public, and run off with a married man is a good fit for me.

He liked to simplify the situation of her running off with another woman’s husband, causing a massive wake of destruction for several people involved, as “things just didn’t work out between the two of you.” 

I added some commentary about how I amused I was that his sister got drunk, started a fight with her boyfriend (and former affair partner), resulting in his arrest in front of the kids, eviction from his home for 30 days, order of protection, et cetera.

Clearly, I’ve been struggling to adopt the “Right Speech”part of my spiritual practice. 

This morning, another ex, from over 10 years ago, sent a long message detailing the major conflicts and struggles in her personal soap opera. As usual, I will not reply. I will probably receive another one next week. 

“If the level of drama drops below a certain threshold, someone jumps in to amp it up. Dad gets drunk, mom gets sick, Janie shows up for church with an Oakland Raiders tattoo. It’s more fun than a movie. And it works: Nobody gets a damn thing done.”

-Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

I could go on and on, with details of my exes. Embarrassing public meltdowns. One ex actually punched me for not taking her side in a fight with another Walmart shopper, and eventually left me for a heroin addict who stole money from her. Their relationship was ended by his death, presumably from overdose. Bizarrely, I was devastated at the time. 

Last year, I learned to recognize my patterns of codependency and left Crazy Town, but some of the old residents still phone me from time to time. 

I need to work on responses, or maybe lack of response. 

See ya tomorrow.

B.G.

    “Even harder is saying no to certain time-consuming emotions: anger, excitement, distraction, obsession, lust. None of these impulses feels like a big deal by itself, but run amok, they become a commitment like anything else.” 

    -Ryan Holiday, Be Ruthless to Things that Don’t Matter, from Daily Stoic.